This House of Sky by Ivan Doig

A memoir of Ivan Doig’s childhood in western Montana, wrangling sheep and falling in love with words in the company of his father and maternal grandmother.

This House of Sky was given to me by my very good friend Karen. She and I have been trading books for as long as we’ve known each other, and I always know that she’ll give me something worth reading.

I was slow to warm up to Ivan’s story, which suffered from an overly precious introduction and a surfeit of self-importance at the start. But Ivan has a beautiful story to tell, and once I got used to him, I devoured the book. Ivan’s mother died when he was young, and his father made a bad–but mercifully brief–remarriage. As Ivan grew, his father realized that he needed mothering, and stuffed down his pride to reach out to his first wife’s mother, the indomitable Bessie Ringer, and Ivan lived with her for several years. Then, all three lived together, and after Ivan moved out to attend journalism school at Northwestern University, Ivan and his mother-in-law continued to live together. Ivan points out that they made an odd, unexpected family, but the bonds of love grew between them so deeply because of their love for Ivan.

There’s a lot to learn in This House of Sky about life lived intentionally, and it’s all set against some stunning passages of life in the wild. I was particularly taken by the rigors of sheep-herding, which Doig really brought to life for me in a marvelous way.

Thanks, Karen–I love you!

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